“You look healthy as ever,” says Iroh, embracing Korra, then Asami.
“And you look like the spirit cakes have been agreeing with you,” says Korra.
Iroh pats his stomach and laughs his kind, portly laugh. The picnic table is lavishly set, not just with cakes, but with dainty little sandwiches that Korra knows Asami favors. She and Iroh get along like a house on fire; Korra suspects they’d spend days in the material world locked in pai sho battle if left unattended. Here in the spirit world they’ve had to set a rule that lunch comes before pai sho, or else no one would ever get to eat.
“Tell me what’s happened,” says Iroh, pouring tea for everyone.
Korra lets Asami do most of the talking, content to listen to her describe her plans for Republic City, the improvements they’ve made to public transportation and the continuing integration of spirit vines with human architecture. The area around the spirit portal has become a monument to the Battle for Republic City, with monitored checkpoints at the portal so they can account for humans coming and going. Some of Kuvira’s giant mech was broken down to make sculptures for the memorial, with the rest sold off as scrap to help finance the rebuilding. Future Industries assumed much of the city’s debt, giving Asami virtually free reign to shape the city as she wishes.
While Asami builds stacks of sandwiches and cakes into a city layout, Korra lets her hand idly rub small circles at the small of her back. The spirits around them are watching avidly, reacting to Asami’s enthusiasm and Korra’s languid affection. Nearby, a litter of bull-horned puppies gambol in a pile, struggling to climb over each other with their pudgy bellies and clumsy paws.
Eventually Asami winds down and starts to eat, which is Korra’s cue to tell Iroh about her work for the past year. Asami rests her hand on Korra’s thigh while she eats and occasionally interjects with little asides when she thinks Korra is leaving something out. They’re forced to spend days and weeks at a time apart by the nature of their jobs, but with repairs to the city nearing completion and the Earth Republic’s first full democratic election concluded, they’ve decided to take their first vacation in a long, long time.
Iroh sits and eats steadily throughout it all, refilling their tea without being asked, absorbing everything with the quiet pride of someone who has watched his loved ones grow and mature. “Everything sounds like it is going so well,” he says, then sighs contentedly into his cup.
Under the table, Korra clasps Asami’s hand. “It really is.”
They spend the night in their favorite spot a little ways from Iroh’s cottage. It’s never the same when they visit; sometimes it’s a meadow of head-high grass, sometimes it’s a grove of persimmon trees with fruit the size of balloons, sometimes it’s a glade next to a glassy pond filled with lotus blossoms that pop like bubbles. They always find it by feeling, knowing they’ve arrived when peace and stillness flow within them.
Tonight they’re surrounded by cherry blossom saplings, carpeted by a soft bed of dark grass flecked through with golden light. Korra puts up their tent, not for the elements, but to protect against curious little spirits who might wander by. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d been intimate only to discover a flock of innocent dragonfly bunnies hovering nearby, watching with great interest.
As soon as Asami lies down, Korra sprawls on top of her. Asami laughs, spitting out a mouthful of short hair and doing her best to gather up Korra’s limbs while Korra puts up token resistance. This is their first real time off in months, their first time alone together in weeks. Even without crazed villains planning on world domination, Korra is still in high demand. Transitioning the Earth Kingdom to a republic has been siphoning away every moment not spent checking on the spirit portals or advising President Raiko or reassuring anxious war-displaced citizens or mediating spirit/human conflicts.
For a moment Korra just wants to enjoy the feeling of Asami’s body beneath her, so solid and real, smelling of her soap and perfume, with the faint metallic tang of the factory. She buries her face in Asami’s hair, nose tickling at her ear. A little snuffling sound makes Asami laugh and squirm until she finds the leverage to flip Korra onto her back. Her hair falls in a thick curtain around them and Korra just stares, still entranced by her beauty.
“What?” Asami asks.
Korra’s smile goes goofily lopsided. “Every day I think you’re at your most beautiful but then I see you the next day and find out I was wrong.”
Asami still blushes when Korra unwittingly tells her the most romantic things just by speaking her thoughts aloud. Three years of Korra casually making Asami feel like she’s the center of Korra’s whole world and she still hasn’t gotten used to it. She probably never will. There’s nothing she can say, but Korra has always understood actions better than words. Asami dips her head, lips pressing warmly against Korra’s, tracing her jaw, her cheekbone, the ridge of her brow. She can feel Korra go pliant underneath her, strong hands roaming, slipping under her shirt, dipping below her waistband.
“I love you,” Asami murmurs. She pauses just long enough to sit up, kneeling astride Korra’s torso, and strip off her shirt. Korra eagerly pulls her back down and they kiss, stronger and deeper than before, tongues slipping together in a way that sends a pleasant jolt down through Asami’s stomach. Touching Korra is always like this, a rush of sparks scattering all over her skin, warm and electric and safe. Asami thinks it might be part of Korra’s Avatar nature but she keeps the theory to herself. Korra mouth traces hers, nipping at her lower lip, then pressing up firmly until Asami can’t breathe.
Outside of their tent, the trees sprout and mature, branches unfurling overhead and growing buds all over until they bloom in a riot of pale pink petals.
Their vacations in the spirit world are always too short, but they’re both too essential to the United Republic to be gone for long. Iroh seems them to the portal entrance, hugging them both at the same time as a farewell. “The spirit world was particularly beautiful while you were here. Come back again soon,” he says. He seems quietly delighted about something.
Asami takes a last look around at the rolling green and purple hills and the delicate little blue blossoms that started sprouting up in her wake a few days ago. “We will.”
They link hands as they walk through the portal. Asami feels the tug on her body that means she’s in the material world again, like she’s been floating and her feet are settling back on the ground. The sounds of Republic City gradually fade in: car engines, buzzing power lines, the rhythmic pounding and drilling of far off reconstruction. Spirits flutter around them, inspecting these two humans fresh from their world.
Korra inhales deeply and lets it out, reorienting her senses. The sunlight is almost completely gone, the city painted in long shadowy strokes and glimmers of orange and yellow. “Dinner?” she asks.
Asami nods and they trudge out of the portal crater to find a taxi.
They’re still caught up in the last blush of their vacation and neither feels like cooking, so they stop at a noodle place close to their apartment. Asami eats with gusto; they never want for sustenance in the spirit world but for some reason whenever they come back hunger hits her hard. It’s the only time that Korra, more used to transitioning in and out of the spirit world, ever eats less than her.
“This might have been the best visit to the spirit world yet,” says Korra, chin propped in her hand while she watches Asami neatly dissect the last of her rice noodles.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever been able to go without really feeling like we need to get back as soon as possible,” Asami points out.
Korra makes a little sound of agreement.
Asami pauses with her chopsticks halfway to her mouth. “You’re awfully quiet tonight.”
Korra manages a one-shouldered shrug, and when Asami can see she won’t say any more, she continues eating. But she doesn’t forget the dreamy way Korra watches her all night, and when they slide into bed, Korra immediately pulls her close and presses soft kisses all along her neck. Korra is always affectionate with her, but since they entered the spirit world she’s practically showered Asami with attention. At first she’d thought it was the usual buzz of another reunion after weeks apart but it feels different now. Not that Asami is complaining. Korra kisses her until they’re drowsy and they drift off, foreheads pressed together.
“Do you really think she’ll like it?” Korra asks nervously.
Pema turns the little jade pendant over in her fingers. “It’s beautiful. She’ll love it.” She returns it to Korra, who puts it back in its little box and stows it away in her pocket.
Korra still keeps a room on Air Temple Island, but it’s more of a gesture than anything else; she and Asami have lived together for over a year now. Sometimes she still thinks about finding a nice house outside of the city limits, maybe close to the water, maybe an island of their own, but for now their spacious high rise apartment a few blocks away from Future Industries headquarters is home.
Tenzin comes in, followed by the noisy rabble that is Ikki, Meelo, Rohan, and Jinora, all squabbling over something while Poki jumps from shoulder to shoulder. “Korra!” Jinora lights up, hugging her tightly. They’re almost eye-to-eye now. Korra returns the hug, knowing to brace herself for three more just like it. The kids pile on and she makes a good-natured oof.
“I didn’t know you were coming by today,” says Ikki, leading Korra over to the table so they can sit down for lunch.
“Just had to pick up some stuff from my room,” says Korra, avoiding meeting Pema’s little smile.
“I thought you moved everything into the apartment,” says Jinora.
“Just some books I wanted to show Asami.”
“Here we go!” Pema interrupts, setting down a bowl of rice and a platter of fried tofu.
Korra gratefully tucks in, letting her full mouth dissuade further questions. Instead she prompts the kids for what they’ve been up to and lets their chatter fill up the hour. Before she knows it she’s gliding back to the mainland, Pema’s advice bouncing around in her brain. It sits quietly in the back of her mind while she meets with Raiko before hopping over to the city’s eastern district to redirect some spirit vines into a more stable configuration for the builders. It even manages to stay at a whisper while she showers and changes before dinner with Asami. But the moment she walks into Asami’s office to pick her up, it comes clamoring back at full volume. Just speak from the heart. And don’t try to give a prepared statement like Tenzin did.
“Ready to go?” Korra asks.
Asami holds up a finger, still scribbling something at her enormous desk. Behind her, the big picture windows overlooking the city frame buildings limned by the glow of sunset. Korra watches how Asami’s brow crinkles, lips in a tight line, hand writing frantically in an effort to transcribe the thousand and one thoughts bubbling in that genius brain of hers. Her hand digs into her pocket, almost of its own volition, and traces the edges of the box there.
“Done!” Asami proclaims, finally throwing down her pen and leaning back in her chair. She cracks her neck, a sign that she’s been craning it all day, which means today was a heavy paperwork today. Asami will be wanting a lighter dinner then, something to help clear her head.
Korra circles around behind Asami, gathering up her hair in a thick cable and pulling it to one side so her hands can land firmly on Asami's shoulders and massage firmly up to her neck. Asami tilts her head forward, eyes shut. “Have I ever told you how glad I am you have the grip strength of a leopard monkey?”
Korra just finds a knot in Asami’s back and skillfully works it out. When she’s done she lets her hands rest on either side of Asami’s neck for a moment, thumbs brushing at her hairline.
“Can’t I just fall asleep here?” Asami grumbles now that the massage is over, but she takes Korra’s hand anyway and lets herself be pulled to her feet.
“Dinner, then I promise I’ll give you an even better massage before bed,” says Korra. She means it innocently, but Asami gives her a leer and Korra laughs, bodily moving her away from the desk. “Come on, dinner. I’m starving.”
“I think we’re almost done with the second stage of expansion,” Asami says over dinner.
Stage one was surveying the surrounding lands to find a suitable expansion zone, then planning out neighborhoods and utilities and a hundred other things based on who was displaced by the attack and the projected needs of a modern city for the next twenty years. Korra remembers that first year, how Asami sank so deep into the project that she nearly drowned, especially right after her father’s funeral. Their first vacation in the spirit world was a balm, but only a temporary bandage over a deep wound. Now they’re in stage two, expanding the rail line and gradually moving in residents and businesses through pilot programs to see where the kinks are. Asami’s test housing, a huge block of low-cost apartments with fully integrated spirit vines designed to maximize community and minimize environmental impact, is going swimmingly. Stage three is full-scale construction.
“That’s great!” says Korra. She rests her hand on top of Asami’s. “You can finally start delegating more to the subcontractors.”
“Honestly, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to regularly have free time,” Asami says with a sigh.
“We’re both going to have more time, now that the election’s over. Wu says he still needs my help but he’s actually doing okay with his advisory council.”
“He just wants to see you more,” says Asami, smirking.
“Maybe we could go visit my parents for a little while. I haven’t gotten to spend much time with them recently,” Korra says, hoping it sounds like a spur of the moment suggestion and not a carefully crafted plan.
“The South Pole sounds perfect. It’s been so sticky in the city lately,” says Asami.
“Awesome,” says Korra, and lets her foot gently press up against Asami’s under the table.
Even as busy as she is getting ready for the subcontractors to break ground on the new buildings in the expansion zone, Asami still notices that Korra is growing increasingly nervous as the weeks pass. She doesn’t know why; they’ve visited Tonraq and Senna before. If anything, it reminds her of the first time they went to the South Pole as a couple, when Korra was still nervous about her parents’ approval for this new relationship in her life.
The night before they’re due to leave, Asami is busy checking and re-checking all her paperwork while Korra finishes packing. Asami trusts her subcontractors, inasmuch as she trusts any company that isn’t Future Industries, but the idea of just leaving someone else to do the work has become almost completely foreign to her over the past three years. The three years before that weren’t much better with Korra gone and Asami desperately wanting to distract herself from her family problems with work. But she can sense that a change is coming. She might actually start leaving the office on time every day.
Korra wanders into her office, leaning on the edge of her desk. “All set,” she says, even though she was only in their bedroom for ten minutes. Her habit of packing light hasn’t changed a bit.
“Be right there,” says Asami, shuffling through a few more pages of line items.
Korra knows better than to try to interrupt when Asami has that numbers look on her face so she spends a few minutes perusing the stack of drawings on the drafting board. She loves watching Asami draw, the way she can see Asami’s ideas coalesce into reality with sure strokes of her pencil. The board is set up to receive ample light during the day, so that sometimes Korra finds her with her face literally illuminated as she works. There’s lots of sketches right now, mostly city grids, but a few are of independent projects unrelated to rebuilding. There’s a larger hummingbird design, made to seat a dozen people it looks like, and some sleek airship updates. And at the bottom of a sheaf of rough sketches Korra finds a detailed portrait of herself, shaded in to look almost like a real picture.
“When did you do this?” she asks, bringing it over to Asami.
Embarrassed at the evidence of her daydreaming, Asami tries to take the picture back, but Korra keeps it just out of her grasp. “Oh, I was just…fooling around.”
“If this was you fooling around I can’t even imagine what making an effort would look like,” Korra says. She peers closely at it. “It’s amazing. We should get it framed.”
“There’s that healthy Avatar self-confidence I love,” says Asami, pecking Korra on the cheek.
It’s Korra’s turn to be embarrassed. “No, I mean, we should showcase your art. You’re a great artist. Have you ever thought about drawing other people?”
“Just you,” says Asami. She pushes away her paperwork and trailers her fingers under Korra’s chin as she walks away. “You’re the only one I’ve studied closely enough to draw like that.”
“You know if you want to keep my ego in check you probably shouldn’t tell me things like that,” says Korra, leaving the drawing and following Asami.
That night, while Asami sleeps, Korra watches her and thinks about the drawing and the little box burning a hole in her pants pocket every day. Her stomach buzzes, sending anxious tendrils up into her chest. It’s a long time before she’s able to fall asleep.
Any crankiness Korra might have from not sleeping enough is wiped away by the voyage south. She stands with Naga in the prow of Asami’s ship, enjoying the stiff salt breeze as they cruise out of Yue Bay, letting the fresh air and sea smells drain all the tension from her body. It feels like the start of a big journey, much bigger than just a routine visit to her parents.
They make good time on the water, with only one stop to visit the Southern Air Temple on the way, and before she knows it they’re entering Harbor City waters.
Tonraq is waiting for them at the dock, along with several elders and local chiefs. Naga bounds down the boarding ramp first, eager for solid land and a proper run. Korra runs down right after her, throwing herself into her father’s arms for a hug. “Dad!”
He hugs her tightly. The grey in his hair has crept a little deeper, but his arms are brawny as ever, and he moves with his usual warrior’s assuredness.
Asami follows at a more stately pace, but looks just as happy to see Tonraq. He hugs her as well while Korra bows to the others. “It’s good to have you here. Senna will be thrilled to see you,” he says.
Asami manages a smile, even though she’s uncharacteristically queasy from being on the open water. Everyone once in a while it’s nice to be in a place where no one has any professional expectations of her.
Senna is indeed thrilled to see them, ushering them both to the chief’s private dining room immediately after hugging them. Korra is always hungry after a sea voyage, but Asami picks at her seaweed cakes and fried octopus even though she knows Senna made them especially for her. They have palace staff on hand but whenever they visit Senna likes to cook for them herself.
“Everything okay?” Korra asks, noticing that Asami’s plate is still mostly full.
“My appetite’s been off for a few days. I think I might have picked up a stomach bug,” Asami admits.
Senna immediately pushes her hand against Asami’s forehead in a motherly gesture that reminds Asami so much of her own mother that she feels a sudden dull ache in her heart. “Well, you’re not overly warm. Maybe you should see Katara after dinner.”
Asami doesn’t want to impose on Katara, who is getting on in years, but she can see the way Korra is looking at her with concern, so she nods. “Okay.” She does her best to eat a few more bites and then Korra takes her over to Katara’s lodge on Naga, pointing out all the new things that have been built since they last visited. Already Korra seems more vital, more full of energy surrounded by her homeland. Asami resolves to visit more often.
Katara greets them at the door, as if aware they were coming. Perhaps she was; word travels fast wherever the Avatar goes and especially amongst the network of friends and family she has in her own tribe. She takes Asami into the back room, leaving Korra in the front, standing with her hands clasped in front of her. “I’ll wait right here,” she calls, and Asami tries to give her a reassuring look.
She feels better the moment she lies down in the healing waters, even though Katara hasn’t started yet. It’s soothing, peaceful, if a little chilly. The lodge and the water are probably toasty by Water Tribe standards though.
“Just relax,” says Katara, carefully lowering herself into a cross-legged position. She looks about the same as always, perhaps with a few new wrinkles. Her kindly face settles into calmness as her hands weave around each other, moving energy through the water. Asami can feel it passing through her body, a brightness that tingles without tickling. Katara’s hands pause and the light fades. “Oh my.”
Asami sits up, dripping water. “What, what is it?” she asks. “Is something wrong?”
“Not wrong. Different.” Katara seems to regard her strangely. “Asami, you’re pregnant.”
She blinks, thinking she couldn’t have possibly heard right. “Excuse me?”
Katara places a small, well-worn hand low on her stomach. “Pregnant. Five weeks or so, I’m guessing.”
“I…” She’s absolutely staggered by what Katara is saying, just barely processing the words. “I can’t be.”
“When was your last cycle?” Katara asks.
Asami tries to think. “I guess…I guess it’s been a while? I lose track. It’s happened before. My healer in Republic City said it was just stress.” And then she realizes how this must look to Katara and her hands fly to her mouth. “Katara, I haven’t been with anyone except Korra, I swear. I don’t know how this is possible. Are you sure?”
Katara fixes her with a stare that reminds Asami she’s not just a sweet old family friend of Korra’s, she’s one of the preeminent waterbenders in the world, a social revolutionary, a survivor of the Hundred Year War. And she probably thinks Asami has been catting around on the reincarnation of her husband.
“Katara…” she pleads.
To her eternal relief, Katara’s gaze softens. “I believe you. The normal rules never do seem to apply to the Avatar. We’ll figure it out, I promise.”
Asami slumps over, head landing in her hands. She still can’t quite understand what’s happening to her. They haven’t planned for this. She’d thought it would be at least another year before they even started thinking about a family.
“Come on, let’s get you out of there,” says Katara.
Slowly, Asami climbs out of the water and Katara dries her off with a flick of her fingers.
“Do you need a moment? We can wait before you talk to Korra,” Katara offers.
Asami sits heavily on a bench flush against the wall. Her hands go to her stomach, as if they can actually feel what’s inside. “I think I need more than a moment.”
“That’s life with the Avatar for you,” says Katara, her smile returning. She sits next to Asami and pats her leg. “It’ll be okay. And I’ll be there to help.”
Asami can feel her lower lip quivering and fights it as hard as she can; she hasn’t cried in a long time, not since that first year after Kuvira’s attack when she was overwhelmed with the reconstruction and navigating the beginning of her relationship with Korra and missing her father. But Katara is being so kind that the tears leak out anyway, and Asami sniffles a little bit. “Sorry, sorry!” She wipes roughly at her eyes. “I don’t know why I’m crying. I should be happy. It’s just…strange. And we haven’t really talked about having a family even though I know Korra wants one. What if we’re not ready? What if we’re horrible parents? My father—”
“Stop right there,” Katara says firmly. “You’re going to take a few deep breaths and then you’re going to talk to Korra, and then you’re going to figure out what to do next. Together.”
Asami obeys, breathing in and breathing out, practicing some of the meditation techniques Tenzin teaches. She can feel her body responding by calming down even though her mind is still stumbling for purchase. “Okay. Thank you.”
Katara shuffles over to the door, beckoning for Asami to follow her. They emerge into the front room, where Korra immediately shoots to her feet. “Is everything all right?”
Asami looks to Katara first and finds her nodding reassuringly. So she goes to Korra, taking her hand and intertwining their fingers, pulling her back down to the bench. “Everything’s fine. It’s just, I have some news that might surprise you.”
“What is it?” Korra asks, eyes wide with worry. She clasps the top of Asami’s hand, sandwiching it between hers.
Korra freezes. Her eyes lock on Asami’s but there’s a disconcerting blankness there, as if she’s stuck in her own head. Then Katara touches her shoulder and she seems to come back to life, blinking and breathing deeply. “How?”
“You tell me, Avatar,” says Katara, eyes twinkling. “Asami’s at about five weeks.”
Korra frowns, recounting her days and nights with Asami, trying to come up with a timeline of events. She gasps. “The spirit world.”
Asami squeezes her hands. “What about it?”
“It must be,” Korra continues, looking between Asami and Katara, feeling the pieces falling into place. “When we were on vacation.”
Asami flashes back to that night among the cherry trees, stepping out of their tent in the morning to find the entire place carpeted inches thick with fragrant cherry blossom petals and more gently floating down. If she concentrates she can remember the silk feel of them under her bare feet. “You’re saying that when we were…” She blushes a little, even though she’s a grown woman and has been for some time. “…together. In the spirit world. That’s how I got pregnant?”
“Iroh always says the spirit world is very mysterious. It must be,” Korra says, shrugging. Something seems to click inside of her and her face brightens into a sunburst smile. “We’re gonna have a baby!” She grabs Asami bodily and hauls her up, twirling her around.
“How are you already okay with this?” Asami asks once Korra sets her down and she can breathe again.
“I guess it’s kind of been on my mind lately,” Korra admits, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand. “With your work finally getting less crazy and the Earth Republic starting to settle down…yeah. I thought we’d finally have time to focus more on us.”
“It’s not my fault that—”
Korra holds up her hands. “No, I’m not saying it is! We’re both pretty busy all the time. I love that you’re so involved with wanting to make Republic City a better place. It’s just that other Avatars got to have families and I always imagined myself getting to make one too.”
“Oh, Korra,” says Asami, and slides her arms around Korra’s neck. She presses her face into Korra’s hair. “Of course you will. We will.” For a moment they stay connected, Asami matching her breathing to Korra’s, and when she lets go she feels better.
“The really tough part is figuring out how to tell my parents,” says Korra.
They both plead with Katara to at least soften up Senna and Tonraq but she just laughs at them and shoos them out of her lodge. When it’s just the two of them standing outside in the snow, they look at each other in bewilderment.
“I—” Asami starts, just as Korra pulls her close and kisses her deeply, passionately, overflowing with love and desire and not caring if all the White Lotus guards see them. Nearby, Naga makes chuffing sounds and her tail churns in the snow.
“I love you and I love our baby already even though it’s probably just a little pea right now. We don’t have to tell my parents right away if you’re not comfortable,” says Korra.
Asami leans her forehead against Korra’s in obvious relief. “Thank you. I just need a little time to adjust to this.”
“I guess anyone would. It’s not like we planned it, exactly.”
Asami laughs a little; it feels good seeing the humor in their situation and she can feel her shoulders loosening. “No, but since when have our lives ever gone according to plan.”
Korra laughs too, trying not to let all her excitement bubble over at once like a shaken up champagne bottle. “Let’s go for a walk. I think we both need to calm down.” They ride Naga back to the city proper, where she takes Asami’s hand and leads her through the streets to point out some childhood memories. They stop at a few vendor’s stalls and Korra watches Asami carefully, the way she idly fingers a bit of jewelry or leans in closer to examine a fishing spear. She seems fine, for now.
When it’s time to head back to the palace, Asami’s grip on Korra’s hand tightens, but she walks in silence.
“What did Katara say?” Senna asks as soon as they return to family quarters.
“I’m fine,” Asami says vaguely. “Just a little residual nausea from the trip. It’ll pass.”
“Hen broth and unsalted kelp. It’s what my mother always recommended for an upset stomach,” says Senna, getting up to head to the kitchens.
“Oh don’t trouble yourself, please. I just need to lie down for a while,” says Asami, which Korra takes as her cue to put an arm around Asami’s shoulders and guide her to their bedroom. She tosses a smile over her shoulder at her mom.
“Thanks,” says Asami while she dresses for bed. “We’ll tell your parents soon, I promise.”
“Don’t worry about it. Just get a good night’s rest. Things will seem better in the morning,” says Korra, pulling off her shirt then sitting on the bed to tug at her boots. She feels the mattress dip, and then Asami slides her hands over Korra’s shoulders and around to her chest, hugging her from behind. She kisses the nape of Korra’s neck.
“I love you,” she says firmly.
But to Korra it sounds like she’s trying to convince herself of something, and she spends another night turning over and over on her side of the bed. She finally manages to drift off deep in the wolf hours and wakes up later than usual. Asami is already gone, pillow cold. It’s late morning, probably almost noon from the way sunlight slants into their room. Groggily she climbs out of bed, stretching and yawning, and goes in search of Asami and breakfast.
Breakfast is easy enough to find after some foraging in the kitchen, but Asami is not in the palace. Korra gets dressed for the day and then starts wandering, hoping someone can tell her Asami’s whereabouts. Eventually she finds her mother and Kya out on one of the terraces, and they point her back towards Katara’s.
Naga is only too happy to get saddled up and led onto the street. Korra has barely to nudge with her heels before Naga takes off like a bowshot, going as fast as she can without knocking over street traffic. As soon as Naga pulls up, Korra is jumping off her back in a burst of wind that carries her to the bottom steps leading up to the lodge door. Asami is already there, sliding it open, stepping out looking distracted. “Korra!” she says, seeing her worried face below.
“Are you okay?” Korra asks, bounding up the steps two at a time.
“I’m fine. I just needed to talk to Katara.” She lets her fingers ghost down Korra’s arm in a reassuring gesture.
“About the baby?”
“Everything is fine,” Asami repeats, voice low and soothing. “And yes. I had…questions.” She looks away, at her feet, anywhere but Korra.
Korra can see the hesitation in her, and something like fear. “Asami…” She almost doesn’t want to ask, but she forges ahead because even if it’s painful, it’s better than letting things fester in silence. “Do you want to have the baby?”
Asami hugs herself loosely. “I want more than anything to have a family with you. It’s just…”
Everything in her is screaming to touch Asami, comfort her, to coax the words to the surface. But she needs to let Asami take the last few steps herself.
“I just thought we’d have a little more time. That we’d be able to plan everything. I went from not thinking about this at all to suddenly having to plan for a very real baby who’s going to be here in eight months.” Asami looks up then, having gotten all her words out, needing Korra to understand.
“You weren’t thinking about it?” Korra asks, unexpectedly hurt. She can feel the box in her pants pocket, where it’s taken up residence.
“We’re always so busy!” Asami says, defending herself. “You can’t tell me you honestly thought any time in the last three years was a good time to have a child?”
“No, of course not, but…” She looks at Asami, really looks at her, and her heart starts pounding. “I was still thinking about the future. Us. Dreaming of the life we’d have some day.”
“Oh Korra.” Asami cups her cheek. “I thought about the future too. Just in an abstract way. Not so specific. So…” She makes a vague gesture at her body.
“Well the future’s here. It’s okay to be scared; I know I am.” Korra bites her lower lip, something tugging at her deep in her gut. She comes to a swift conclusion. Her hand goes into her pocket; out comes the box, lid flipped open to reveal the pendant inside. Asami’s eyes go wide as the sun catches the polished jade. “I wanted to do this with flowers and dinner and everything but why wait?”
“I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Everything else, we can figure out together,” says Korra. She holds the box up so Asami can see the pendant up close. Her hand hovers in midair before alighting on the pendant, fingertips tracing it where it’s still snugged in its velvet pillow.
“It’s beautiful,” says Asami.
“I picked it to match your eyes,” Korra says quietly. “It took forever to bend but I wanted it to be perfect.”
Asami grasps it and tugs it loose, drawing it out followed by its necklace of twined leather. The jade is formed into a small gear, the same one in the Future Industries crest, but with the waves of the Southern Water Tribe’s emblem embossed across it. She traces the grooves and curves, marveling at the precision bending that must have gone into such detail.
“So will you…wear it?” Korra asks, uncertainty clouding her face.
Asami imagined this moment differently too, but when she searches within herself, she finds that it feels right. She slips it over her head, letting it settle against her breastbone. It feels permanent, but in the best way possible.
“Yes!” Korra shouts, sounding just like her teenaged self. She wraps her arms around Asami’s waist and kisses her, just a quick press at first, but then again, and again, until they’re both lightheaded.
Asami leaves one last kiss on the corner of Korra’s mouth, letting her arms rest on Korra’s shoulders with her hands dangling. “I guess we’ll tell your parents when we get back. Your mom is going to notice this in half a heartbeat.” She touches the pendant again.
“Oh no,” says Korra, one hand clapping over her mouth. “I wanted to tell them first when I did it. But Katara…”
Katara’s voice carries thinly through the door. “I didn’t hear a thing.”
Asami bursts into giggles, then nearly loses her breath when Katara grabs her hand and pulls her down the steps towards Naga. Korra climbs into the saddle and pulls Asami up after her, loving the way Asami presses close to her and wraps her arms around Korra’s waist. “Did you hear Naga?” Korra asks, leaning forward and scratching briskly up and down Naga’s neck. “We’re getting married. Let’s go tell mom and dad.”
Naga lets loose a joyful howl and takes off at a gallop.
Her parents and Kya are eating lunch together, which is convenient. Korra goes in first, then tugs Asami after her. Korra’s mouth is only halfway open when Senna glances up and immediately screeches in delight. “Oh spirits, is that what I think it is?” she asks, springing up from her chair and making a beeline for Asami.
Tonraq coughs on the juicy bit of seal steak still in his mouth when he sees what made his wife abandon her lunch.
“Well we were going to make an announcement, but yeah,” says Korra, fondly watching her mother hug Asami so tightly they’re rocking from side to side.
“Oh, I’m so happy for you,” says Senna, welling up.
Tonraq and Kya get up too and they all mix and match hugs until Korra feels thoroughly ruffled. She can see Asami asking for help with her eyes over Tonraq’s shoulder. He’s mentioning something about a bachelor ceremony with all the warriors and Senna is already talking about how many people the palace can hold when Korra clears her throat. “And we have one more thing to tell you.”
“What else could have possibly happened this morning?” asks Kya.
Korra and Asami exchange glances, realizing they never actually discussed the specifics of breaking this particular news. “Uh, well,” says Asami. Korra plants herself firmly by Asami’s side and takes her hand.
“So, we’re gonna have a baby,” says Korra.
Her parents and Kya freeze in place, staring at her.
“You mean, you want to have one?” Tonraq asks slowly.
Korra can’t quite manage to look anyone in the eye, uncomfortable discussing her sex life with her parents. “No, I mean Asami is pregnant.”
Their heads turn towards Asami, who looks like she wants to sink into the floor.
“How?” asks Kya.
“Oh, you know, we might have been spending a few days in the spirit world and then my Avatar energy somehow made it happen,” Korra says like she’s relating what she had for breakfast, hoping that no one will notice her skating over the actual creation process.
Senna breaks the silence by letting out a sound that easily surpasses her delight at noticing the betrothal necklace and manages to get her arms around Korra, Asami, and Tonraq all at the same time. “Our first grandchild!” she says.
“First?” Asami mouths at Korra, who just shrugs and lets her mom get it all out of her system.
“Congratulations,” says Kya when Senna has managed to finally let go of them. She hugs Korra, who realizes she’s going to have to get used to a lot more hugs in her future as she and Asami break the news to the rest of their friends. Then she squints at Korra, a sly smile ticking up one side of her mouth. “The spirit world, huh.”
“Ooookay,” says Korra. “It’s been a long morning. Asami needs a nap.”
On cue, Asami fakes up a fairly convincing yawn and Korra falls a little more in love with her. They manage to escape with only some minor hand holding from Senna and retreat back to their room, Senna’s excited chatter echoing down the hall in their wake.
Korra falls asleep easily, feeling well-loved from all the attention that day. Her father hadn’t been able to stop puffing up his chest at dinner, looking at her with alternating pride and love.
She wakes up in the middle of the night, something calling to her that everything is not fine. Asami is gone again, and she sits up quickly, throwing off the covers. Instinct guides her to their balcony, overlooking the city. The city is softly aglow, lights twinkling off of the snow and ice. She thinks again about retreating into a quieter life with Asami, maybe even here with the Southern Water Tribe. It’s a good place to raise a family.
Asami leans on the balcony, bundled up in a thick robe instead of her usual sheer silk. Korra presses up behind her so her body heat can seep into Asami, and slides her arms around her waist. Asami covers Korra’s hands with her own but keeps staring out over the city.
Asami strokes her hands a few times, feeling the tough sinews capable of immense destruction and delicate creation, that have held and comforted and encouraged her for three years. “I guess I still haven’t fully accepted that this is happening.”
Korra’s arms tighten fractionally, but she remains still. “It’s a lot to absorb, I know.”
Asami’s stomach clenches, and then she lets out a small sob. Bewildered, Korra lets her go so they can face each other. Asami turns her head away, trying to stop the tears, but they won’t stop. “I’m sorry,” she says between sniffs. “I’m happy, really I am. But the way your dad kept looking at you, it made me think of my father…”
Korra just gathers Asami together, holding her wordlessly, letting her warmth flow between them. She’s been thoughtless, absorbed with worries about herself and Asami and her own parents and plans. Of course Asami would be missing her parents more than usual right now.
“He would’ve been so excited,” Asami whispers into Korra’s shoulder. “My mom too.”
“I know they can never replace what you lost, but my family is your family too. Forever,” says Korra. She presses their cheeks together, then drops a lingering kiss just below Asami’s ear.
The tears are slowing and Asami tries to breathe normally, inhaling Korra’s supportive energy and exhaling her sadness. “Can we stay out here? Just for a little bit longer?”
Korra nods and closes her eyes, focusing on holding Asami for as long as takes.
For the next two days Senna can’t stop hovering around them, especially Asami, constantly recommending Southern Water Tribe pregnancy remedies and making pointed comments about how they could certainly alter the dress she got married in to fit Asami’s height. And of course with Asami openly wearing her betrothal necklace, palace gossip quickly spreads throughout the city and Korra can’t really go anywhere without someone shaking her hand or offering to buy her a drink. The chieftans all want a big celebration and Tonraq is inclined to give them one, but Korra and Asami both want all their friends to be present when they do celebrate.
They decide to radio ahead, asking Tenzin to assemble everyone in two weeks for a dinner at their apartment. That also gives Mako enough time to travel back from his post in Ba Sing Se as the United Republic’s representative—Wu’s doing, much to Mako’s dismay.
Asami is quiet for the rest of their stay with Korra’s parents, but as their ship sails closer and closer to Republic City, her old vivacity returns, and by the time they dock Korra can tell something has started to change within her. She’s excited about the dinner and has been using the ship’s radio to work out all the details with her assistant, even though her assistant is perfectly capable of arranging nice dinner parties on his own and has in fact done so already several times.
Asami frets over what to wear the night of the dinner, sure she’s beginning to show and everyone will be able to tell, but Korra splays her hand low on Asami’s stomach and smiles warmly at her, and then she doesn’t know why she was so worked up. She picks a dark blue dress that drapes well, fastened at one shoulder with a gold hoop and with a matching belt of gold links. Water Tribe colors have slowly been infiltrating her wardrobe, taking up residence next to her preferred blacks and carmines. Korra is a match in her traditional Water Tribe dress, though she’s left off the formal updo.
Bolin arrives early, bursting in the door with Opal following at a much calmer pace. “Oh I’m so happy you’re back!” he exclaims, falling on them both. “Congratulations you crazy kids!”
Asami touches her necklace in what is beginning to be a habit. “How did you know?”
He pulls a rolled up newspaper out of his coat pocket, unfolding it so the social section is prominently displayed. “It’s in all the papers! It’s all anyone’s been able to talk about for days! Are you guys having a bigger public party after this one? For the record, I think a big party is exactly what Republic City needs to let off some of the steam from working so hard to rebuild. Oh, and it could have a Water Tribe theme! It could—”
Opal grabs a cookie from one of the platters set out and stuffs it in Bolin’s mouth. “Relax, honey,” she says.
“’M juth tho happy,” he mumbles around the cookie, then concentrates on eating it properly.
Tenzin arrives exactly on time, no mean feat with Bumi, Ikki, Meelo, and Rohan in tow, but Pema and Jinora seem to have them as under control as they can be. They’re all in their airbender best, a little knot of saffron and maroon robes moving through the apartment, then suddenly whirling out tendrils as the kids break away one by one.
Rohan tugs on Asami’s skirt. “How come you aren’t already married to Korra?” he asks.
“Okay, time to investigate the snacks,” says Pema, bodily removing him. She smiles warmly at Asami on the way. “But it’s definitely about time.”
Lin is close behind, still in her duty uniform, and Mako rushes in fifteen minutes late, looking deeply apologetic. “Sorry, sorry, my airship took forever,” he says as Bolin slings an arm around his shoulders.
Korra starts passing out glasses of champagne, deftly managing to keep Ikki and Meelo from getting their hands on any.
“That’s not fair!” says Ikki, seeing that Jinora is being allowed a glass.
“Jinora is a legal adult,” says Tenzin with the tone of someone making a familiar argument. With Jinora freshly inducted into adulthood, Ikki is no doubt chafing to be afforded the same privileges.
Asami taps her glass with a fork before Ikki can really get a full head of steam. “Hi everyone. Thanks for coming. You’ve all probably guessed why you’re here.” Korra joins her, an arm sliding around her waist. Her hand squeezes subtly, a signal just for the two of them.
“Speech,” Bolin calls out.
“Korra and I are getting married. She asked me when we were visiting her parents and we’d love it if you could all attend. We haven’t set a date yet, but it’s going to be soon.”
“What’s the rush?” Bumi jokes. But Korra and Asami exchange quick glances, and Bumi’s grin turns into confusion. “Wait a minute…” he begins.
“I’m pregnant,” Asami blurts out. “And before you ask, it was some kind of Avatar accident in the spirit world. We’re not entirely sure how but that’s Katara’s best guess. So.” She looks as though she wants to down Korra’s glass of champagne, but is stuck with her glass of cucumber aloe water.
“So…” Korra grins sheepishly. “We’re having a baby!”
In the silence, Rohan can be heard very clearly asking, “Daddy, how are babies made?”
Once they all get over the shock, the stream of congratulations is neverending. Mako can barely get a word out between all his astonished stammering, but what he does manage is sincere and heartfelt. Bolin is absolutely beside himself at the thought of an Avatar baby and Jinora has to be dragged away by Pema after asking question after detailed question about the interaction between their physical bodies, spiritual energies, and the Avatar state. Lin gives Korra a handshake and Asami a hand on the shoulder, but as she walks away they can hear her muttering about this one is going to be even more trouble than the parents.
Tenzin finds them last, his beaming face reminding Korra of Tonraq. “I’m so happy for you both. It feels like just yesterday you arrived in Republic City, a brash teenager I had to bail out of prison. Now look at you.” Then his mouth makes an abortive movement, sending a tremor through his beard, and his eyes pinch at the corners.
“Tenzin…” Korra peers closely at him. “Are you gonna cry?”
He draws himself up. “No! Not that I wouldn’t. It’s a very emotional night. But I’m not.”
Asami comes to his rescue, giving Korra a little pinch for teasing him. “Let’s go into the dining room.”
The table just barely manages to fit them all, but no one except possibly Lin minds rubbing elbows with their neighbor. After the main course the toasts start. First Bolin stands up, very seriously smoothing down his waistcoat and clearing his throat. Then Mako, who keeps it short and sweet, and then Bumi who has to get nudged before he sidetracks too far into a story about one of his officers and a beautiful young Fire Nation lass with a pot of rice. Never one to pass up an opportunity to grandstand, Meelo gets up on his chair and offers his hopes that their child becomes the world’s best probender slash millionaire slash monster fighter slash mover star slash badger mole wrangler slash pirate but not the mean kind.
Eventually they come around to Tenzin, who raises his glass. “To Korra and Asami.”
“Korra and Asami,” everyone echoes.
Asami looks around at the faces of their friends, her family. Under the table, Korra has laced their fingers together. For the first time since she found out, she’s looking forward to the future without reservation or worry. She’s lost a lot but she’s gained so much more and she has faith in Korra, faith in their relationship. Life is how it was meant to be.